- Robotics company Refraction AI has partnered with The Produce Station, an independently owned grocer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to offer customers contactless delivery via its autonomous robot, according to All About Ann Arbor.
- The service is available to customers within three miles of the Produce Station store, who can place orders via a dedicated site. Once they place an order, the shopper will receive a text a message with a unique code to open the robot and retrieve their groceries when it arrives. The service is offered for free and is available between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- The three-wheeled, battery-powered robot, known as REV-1, weighs about 100 pounds, travels between 10 to 15 m.p.h., and can hold up to six paper grocery bags at once, All About Ann Arbor reported.
Offering contactless delivery via an autonomous robot gives shoppers another method of getting their groceries without having to visit a store or come in contact with a delivery driver during the pandemic.
"Our expansion into grocery delivery was a no-brainer during this time when the need for contactless delivery is so strong,” said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction AI, in a statement provided to All About Ann Arbor. “Through this partnership with Produce Station, we’ll be gathering insight and data to further expand our grocery delivery model.”
Refraction AI disinfects the robot between uses, according to the news outlet.
The REV-1 robot has been delivering meals from restaurants in Ann Arbor since December. Since March, the company has seen three to four times more restaurant orders than before Michigan ordered people to stay at home in response to the pandemic, All About Ann Arbor reported.
Produce Station could also a spike in orders via the robot as customers may still be hesitant to make frequent trips to the grocery store. Offering the service for free could encourage people to place more frequent and smaller orders, which shoppers may be more reluctant to do when using e-commerce services that have a minimum order requirement for free delivery.
Major retailers to pioneer the use of driverless delivery vehicles include Kroger, which partnered with Nuro to launch service in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Houston. Walmart has also partnered with Nuro in Houston, and is working with Gatik to move products between a pair of its stores in Bentonville, Arkansas, on an autonomous vehicle. H-E-B last year struck a deal with Udelv to test self-driving technology in San Antonio.
Independent grocer Broad Branch Market in Washington, D.C., has also deployed autonomous grocery delivery robots.